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Saturday, July 20, 2024

An Electrifying Baseball Show Steals the Spotlight

Elly De La Cruz, who had just played in his 17th major league game, was chilling with his teammates in the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards on Monday when he found out he had been voted the National League Player of the Week.

The fake irritation and comparisons to colleague and fellow youngster Matt McLain highlighted how good the future and present look to be for the Cincinnati Reds.

At the end of May, only one week into his professional career, 23-year-old infielder McLain received the same award as De La Cruz. Twenty-two days later, De La Cruz, at age 21, arrived, and in less than three weeks, he was awarded the best player in his league.

Abbott won again on Tuesday, this time in a start against the red-hot Baltimore Orioles; he now has a 4-0 record and a 1.21 ERA, while the surging Reds have a 43-38 record through Thursday, which is just 19 wins shy of their total from last year and may put them a full year ahead of schedule.

A total of 14 rookies have seen action for the Reds this season, 11 of them have made their major league debut. But it’s De La Cruz, a 6-foot-5-inch infielder with jetpack speed and ball-denting power, who has gotten all the headlines. With his arrival this month, the Reds have gone from a promising club to one of the most exciting tales of the year, and he has been a major factor in that metamorphosis.

The Reds were on a tear early under De La Cruz, winning 13 of his first 17 games and matching the franchise’s modern-era record 12-game winning streak from 1957.

De La Cruz hit during his crazy award-winning week.two home runs and six extra-base hits for a total of 440. Expectations were high after seeing De La Cruz in spring training or at Class AAA Louisville, where he hit 12 home runs and 11 doubles in just 38 games this year. He slowed down a little at the beginning of this week.

Veteran first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto used the phrase “Mickey Mantle” after switch hitter De La Cruz became the first Red to hit for the cycle since Eric Davis in 1989. Votto is undeterred by De La Cruz’s recent hitless streak and has vowed many more thunderous and sizzling outbursts.

Votto just returned after shoulder surgery that cut short his 2022 season, during which he played two games at Class AA Dayton. Votto claims that in one of them, De La Cruz blasted a ball down the right field line, over the outfield walls and into the street, shocking onlookers. Votto saw more of the same from De La Cruz this year at Class AAA Louisville and earlier this month in the majors.

McLain, who hit his sixth home run of the season on Tuesday to help the Reds snap a three-game losing skid after their 12-game winning streak, played with De La Cruz in Class AA and admired his ability to generate extra-base hits with his fast footwork. According to McLain, De La Cruz showed hesitation at second base during one game, allowing a double to be called out by the lead man on a two-man cutoff. Accelerating rapidly, De La Cruz reached third.

Elly is the tallest of De La Cruz’s nine siblings, standing at 5 feet 8 inches, although De La Cruz’s twin, Pedro, is the shortest at 5 feet and 2 inches. Elly grew raised in Sabana Grande de Boya. While during a tryout for another player, the Reds signed De La Cruz. Thin and enthusiastic, De La Cruz caught their eye, and now she almost appears embarrassed that she was chosen.

Their bold attitude has caught on. The three-game series versus the Braves last week drew a total of 126,724 people (with two of the games decided by a single run). In the Great American Ball Park’s 21-year history, this three-game series had the most attendance.

Krall thinks that the bonds and trust that these dynamic young players developed up on the farm will help create a winning formula in Cincinnati since they all travelled through the minor levels together. The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since 1995, long before any of these young players were even born, but they’ll be playing in the wild-card round that year. They’re no longer satisfied with weekly recognition.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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